ORCHARD PARK, NY - MAY 11: T.J. Graham #11 of the Buffalo Bills makes a catch in front of Cris Hill #39 during Buffalo Bills Rookie Camp on May 11, 2012 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
In a new-look NFL with a rookie wage scale, draft picks are signing at a furious and record-setting pace. One oddity to the madness, however, is perfectly exemplified by the Buffalo Bills: they've got all of their choices under contract, save for third-round pick T.J. Graham.
Why would the third-round pick be the most difficult to agree to terms with? It's a strange thing to ponder, but ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss may have provided the answer last week.
"Talked to one agent who said negotiations with prospects drafted in the third round have been more challenging than the first round," Reiss wrote in a May 13 column. "The reason, according to the agent, is that first and second-rounders receive their full slot allocation, while fourth- to seventh-rounders don’t. That puts the third-rounders right in the middle."
First-round picks get four-year deals that are fully guaranteed, and second-round picks still get contracts that average over $1 million in annual salary, plus multi-million dollar signing bonuses. From there, contracts are meager - and, apparently, not worth what the rookie wage scale says they can be worth. For third-round picks, who are stuck between the good contract rounds and the bad ones, it's apparently trickier than with other draft picks to get fair deals.
Last year, third-round pick Kelvin Sheppard was the last Bills draft pick to sign his contract, joining the team on July 30 after missing the opening practice of training camp. He signed a four-year, $3 million contract with a $690,000 signing bonus.
The good news is that Graham likely won't be without a contract for much longer - but for those of you who were wondering why the Bills' last pick to sign in the last two years has been the third-round pick, now you know why.